NASCAR: Charlotte city officials propose deal to waive debts on Hall of Fame

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source: Getty Images
The NASCAR Hall of Fame has been open since 2010. Photo: Getty Images.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame has struggled to make money and bring in solid crowds since its 2010 opening in Charlotte, North Carolina. Now, the city has proposed a new deal to help get out of obligations that it owes on the building.

As part of the deal, the city would make a payment of $5 million to Wells Fargo and Bank of America on construction loans. This sum would come from a 2 percent hotel tax that was implemented during the Hall’s early development.

The banks would then forgive the remainder of a $19 million loan, and NASCAR itself would waive $3.2 million in royalties that it has not yet received due to the Hall’s financial struggles.

NASCAR would also see its future royalty payments reduced from 10 percent of Hall revenues to 3 percent of revenues in excess of more than $10 million.

Additionally, the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, operators of the Hall, would give each bank five years of Hall sponsorship, valued at $250,000 annually.

The Charlotte city council is expected to vote on the deal next Monday.

Deputy City Manager Ron Kimble said to the Charlotte Observer that the goal was to “bring the Hall into a break-even position,” but the Observer’s Steve Harrison reports that the Hall is still expected to lose money in future years even if the proposal goes through.

Adding to the difficult situation, NBC Charlotte (WCNC-TV) reports that members of the council are mixed on the proposal and whether or not the Hall can survive on its own even if the debt is paid off.

The Hall was expected to bring in 400,000 visitors annually, but last year, it only attracted 170,000 visitors. It has also lost more than $1 million per year since opening its doors, and corporate sponsorships that it expected to sell and use to pay off the bank loans have not come to fruition often enough.

A second, $20 million loan was also used to help build the Hall in addition to the aforementioned one. This loan involves the sale of public land near the Hall.

The Observer report notes that the city has already sold one part of the land and also has a contract of nearly $10 million in place to sell another part. It expects to eventually pay off this loan in full.

April 5 in Motorsports History: Alex Zanardi’s amazing Long Beach rally

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Alex Zanardi entered the Long Beach Grand Prix on April 5, 1998 as the race’s defending champion and the series’ defending champion.

But the Italian didn’t seem a serious contender for much of the 105-lap event. Zanardi started 11th position and lost a lap early when he was involved in a multicar spin in the hairpin.

Alex Zanardi celebrates after winning the 1998 Grand Prix of Long Beach. Photo: Getty Images

But the race was still young, and despite emerging from the incident in 18th place, Zanardi slowly progressed through the field while battling radio problems that made communication difficult with his team.

With five laps remaining, Zanardi passed Dario Franchitti on the backstretch for second place and then focused in on leader Bryan Herta.

With two laps remaining, Zanardi made his move, making a daring pass on the inside of Herta in the Queen’s Hairpin (which no longer exists as the track layout was changed the following year).

The move was reminiscent of Zanardi’s famous last-lap move on the inside of Laguna Seca’s famed Corkscrew in 1996, which deprived Herta of his first CART victory.

Franchitti passed Herta as well, and Zanardi went on to clinch his first victory of the season.

“On a day when everything went wrong, we came back and won,” Zanardi said following the race. “I can’t explain it. It wasn’t until I saw Bryan ahead of me that I ever thought I had a shot at winning. It was amazing. I have no words to describe it.”

Following Long Beach, Zanadri won six more times in 1998 en route to his second and final CART championship.

Also on this date:

1992: Bobby Rahal led from start to finish to win the Valvoline 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. The win was the first of four victories for Rahal during his championship season.

2009: Ryan Briscoe won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first of three victories for the Aussie in 2009. The race was also the first IndyCar Series on Versus, which was rebranded as NBC Sports Network in 2012.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994